Three in a Row

(Pictured: David Bowie, 1973, in the middle of a good run.)

This morning I tweeted an Ultimate Classic Rock story about the anniversary of the release of the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed and asked if any band other than the Beatles ever released three albums in a row better than Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street. I got several suggestions, and here are some of them:

From a couple of people, including friend of the blog Bean Baxter at KROQ in Los Angeles: Springsteen’s Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The River.

From Tim Rolls: David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, and Aladdin Sane.

From Trey Andrews: Something Else by the Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and Arthur.

From Sly_3 and Derrick Hinton: Radiohead’s The Bends, Kid A, and OK Computer.

From J. Daniel Rollins: Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, and Skull and Roses by the Grateful Dead.

From Patrick Kelleher: Ten, Vs., and Vitalogy by Pearl Jam.

From Citylife80: U2’s War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree.

What I do not know about rap and hip-hop music is, well, everything. Steven named Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. Cardigan Spumante suggested the 1997-2002 run of The Untouchable, Last of a Dying Breed, and The Fix by Scarface. Another person suggested three by Ice Cube: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate, and The Predator. Another suggested any three albums by Insane Clown Posse, which I suspect may be arguable. A different suggestion about which I don’t know enough to comment included the first three albums by Creed (My Own Prison, Human Clay, and Weathered).

Sportswriter Doug Farrar (to whom I wave hello and say “love your work”) suggested a pair of threesomes: Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix and Tommy, Live at Leeds, and Who’s Next by the Who. This led another person to suggest that Quadrophenia would make that four in a row by the Who.

Others also suggested four in a row. Friend of the blog Brian Rostron and music writer David Cantwell (one of my favorite writers and a follower I’m pleased to have) both suggested that my list of Stones albums should be expanded, adding Beggar’s Banquet before Let It Bleed. Similarly, Patrick Orr would add Nebraska to the list of Springsteen albums. And on the subject of four-album runs, JMRF nominates Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.

Nick Beck suggested a run of five: Led Zeppelin’s first four plus Houses of the Holy. And the CD Project suggests the Miles Davis period from 1959 through 1970, which covers 13 albums, from Porgy and Bess through Bitches Brew.

A few of respondents named performers without naming albums: Prince, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, and Outkast. Regarding Steely Dan, my three would be Katy Lied, The Royal Scam, and Aja, but you could persuade me that it should be Can’t Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy, and Pretzel Logic. I presume the Joni threesome would be Blue, For the Roses, and Court and Spark. My guess for Prince would be 1999, Purple Rain, and Around the World in a Day. With Outkast, you’d have to tell me.

I should probably Storify all of the tweets I got, but that’s going to take longer than I have today. If you’d like to add your own run of three (or more) albums that you think can rival Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street, please put it in the comments.

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6 responses

  1. Did nobody mention Neil Young’s Ditch Trilogy (Time Fades Away, On The Beach and Tonight’s The Night)?
    You could substitute Zuma, which followed the DT, instead of Time Fades Away and still have a good three-record run.

    For the sake of conciseness, though not completeness, I would winnow Miles Davis to the following wonderful 1968-’70 four-album run: Filles de Kilimanjaro, In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.

    There are also three-album runs that aren’t mainstream, but whose devoted cult followings would tell you they were crucial.
    A few ideas from that realm:
    – Can: Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days
    – The first three albums by (Iggy &) the Stooges — The Stooges, Fun House, Raw Power
    – The run of four Zappa albums from ’73-’75 — Overnite Sensation, Apostrophe, Roxy & Elsewhere and One Size Fits All — cumulatively about as accessible and successful as Zappa’s particular trip ever got
    – The first several Ramones albums are cut from the same cloth; if you deem Ramones (the debut) essential, you probably feel much the same about at least the next two (Leave Home and Rocket to Russia)

  2. I nominate Talking Heads’ consecutive Brian Eno productions: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music and Remain in Light. Eno’s four “pop” releases of the Seventies (Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, Another Green World, Before and After Science) could also be considered.

    Honorable mention: the Velvet Underground’s four studio albums with Lou Reed and the three LPs released by Nick Drake in his lifetime. Oh, and perhaps Scott 2-4 by Scott Walker (the good one).

    As for the Dan: everything from the initial run. You too, Gaucho.

  3. I’d argue that the Stones run was actually 4-5 albums (definitely would include Beggar’s Banquet, and possibly the live Ya-Yas). In sticking with the 3 album run theme, I second everything listed by soundawakeradio, and add:

    – Big Star: #1 Record, Radio City, Third/Sister Lovers
    – The Clash: The Clash, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, London Calling
    – The Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication
    – The Band: Music From Big Pink, The Band, Stage Fright
    – Public Enemy: Yo! Bum Rush the Show, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, Fear of a Black Planet
    – Sly & the Family Stone: Stand!, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Fresh
    – Marvin Gaye: What’s Goin’ On, Let’s Get It On, I Want You (would also include Here, My Dear)
    – Michael Jackson: Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad
    – REM: Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction (also would include Life’s Rich Pageant)

  4. I’d throw into the mix the consecutive threesome by Jackson Browne of “For Everyman,” “Late For the Sky” and “The Pretender.” (If you want to include live albums, “Running on Empty” makes it four in a row that are stellar.)

    And then there’s Stevie Wonder’s sequence of “Talking Book,” “Innervisions,” “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and “Songs In The Key of Life.”

    And I’d agree with David that the Stones hit five in a row.

  5. A great topic with so many great picks, I respect them all (especially the Stevie Wonder, Big Star, Public Enemy, Prince, and Ramones trifectas) though my own sequential album sets are a bit askew from those stated and while almost all of my picks are certainly not worthy of the original accolade, these are my favorite album hat-tricks:

    – The Clash: London Calling, Sandinista, Combat Rock
    – Journey: Departure, Escape, Frontiers
    – Michael & The Jacksons: Destiny, Off The Wall, Triumph
    – Eagles: One Of These Nights, Hotel California, The Long Run
    – Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Tusk
    – Talking Heads: Speaking In Tongues, Stop Making Sense, Little Creatures
    – Rolling Stones: Emotional Rescue, Tatto You, Undercover
    – Dwight Yoakam: Guitars Cadillacs Etc Etc, Hillbilly Deluxe, Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room
    – Queen: The Game, Hot Space, The Works, A Kind Of Magic, The Miracle
    – Heaven 17: Penthouse and Pavement, The Luxury Gap, How Men Are
    – The Police: Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost In The Machine, Synchronicity
    – Daryl Hall & John Oates: Voices, Private Eyes, H2O
    – Billy Joel: The Stranger, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, Songs In The Attic
    – John Cougar Mellencamp: American Fool, Uh-Huh!, Scarecrow
    – Lewis Taylor: Lewis Taylor, Lewis II, Stoned Part 1, Stoned Part II
    – Simple Minds: New Gold Dream, Sparkle In The Rain, Once Upon A Time (all 3 recently released as massive Super Deluxe Editions)
    – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Damn The Torpedoes, Hard Promises, Long After Dark
    – Adam with and without the Ants: Kings Of The Wild Frontier, Prince Charming, Friend Or Foe
    – Blondie: Parallel Lines, Eat To The Beat, Autoamerican
    – Janet Jackson: Control, Rhythm Nation 1814, janet
    – INXS: The Swing, Listen Like Thieves, Kick
    – ZZ Top: Degüello, El Loco, Eliminator
    – Steve Miller Band: Fly Like An Eagle, Book Of Dreams, Greatest Hits 1974-78 (cheating, I know)
    – Bee Gees: Main Course, Children Of The World, Saturday Night Fever, Spirits Having Flown
    – DEVO: Freedom Of Choice, New Traditionalists, Oh No! It’s Devo
    – The Jam: In The City, This Is The Modern World, All Mod Cons, Setting Sons, Sound Affects, The Gift, Snap!

    The Jam seems as good a place to stop as any.

    1. Forgot Elvis Costello’s career-opening salvo of My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model and Armed Forces

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